Pirates notebook: Allie, Bell begin to shine in minors

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Two minor leaguers who battled some adversity early in their professional careers are finding a bit of success in Class A West Virginia.

Stetson Allie, originally a pitching prospect the Pirates converted to a hitter last season, is hitting .396 with five home runs through the first 10 games of the season, and Josh Bell, who missed most of last season with a torn meniscus, has seven doubles and is slugging .537 through nine games.

"They've both shown the ability to recognize good breaking balls," general manager Neal Huntington said. "They're still chasing some -- major league hitters chase some. But they're also showing the ability to recognize and lay off."

Signed for $2.2 million as a hard-throwing pitcher in 2010, Allie struggled to find the strike zone, prompting a position switch.

He was not successful at the plate last season with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Pirates but progressed well enough this spring that the Pirates sent him to West Virginia instead of holding him in extended spring training.

"The best sign from Stetson we've seen is the walk-off home run to right-center field [April 7]," Huntington said. "When you've got guys with power at a young age driving the ball to the opposite-field gap, that's a good sign."

Bell played just 15 games for West Virginia in 2012 before the knee injury. The Pirates signed him out of high school in 2011 for $5 million, a record for a second-round draft pick. In addition to his slugging, Bell has driven in 12 runs through his first nine games.

Huntington indicated the Pirates are not opposed to promoting Bell to Class A Bradenton this season if his play indicates he is ready.

Struggling McPherson injured

Minor league pitcher Kyle McPherson will visit team doctors this week in Pittsburgh to determine if a right elbow injury is serious.

McPherson told coaches in Class AAA Indianapolis of discomfort in his throwing elbow after a challenging outing Friday. The team placed McPherson on the seven-day disabled list Saturday.

Considered a strong candidate to crack the rotation at the start of spring training, McPherson has a 19.29 ERA through two starts for Indianapolis this year.

Domino effect

Manager Clint Hurdle said he hopes to get more innings out of his starting pitchers.

Their inability to pitch deep into games played a part in the team's decision to option infielder Josh Harrison to make room for pitcher Phil Irwin, and thus keep a seven-man bullpen intact Sunday against the Reds.

The Pirates had burned a few of their bullpen arms the past few games because starters have exited relatively early. The starting pitchers have gone into the seventh inning twice in the first 11 games of the season and are averaging fewer than 51/3 innings pitched per start.

"I'm not losing any sleep over it," Hurdle said. "They just need to pitch longer. And they will."

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Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 or on Twitter @msanserino.


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